Joshua Solomon kept his Boy Scouts uniform in his closet for 30 years, a cotton and nylon reminder of the sexual abuse he said he endured — but never reported — as a 12-year-old in Berkeley's Troop 22.
"I've been refusing to let this piece of history die," he said.
Last week, he took the uniform out of the closet. His memories of Scouting — and everything the uniform represents — flooded back with the public release of hundreds of previously confidential files on suspected molesters kept by the youth organization.
The file on his scoutmaster, Steve Kabeary, indicated that eight years after allegedly abusing Solomon he pleaded no contest to molesting four boys. Kabeary was sentenced to eight years in prison.
"I was kind of blown away by it," Solomon said, describing a mix of regret, anger and relief that welled up while reading the file. "It was validation of what happened to me."
Solomon was one of about 100,000 people who visited a database of 5,000 files and case summaries posted by The Times on suspected sexual abusers in the Boy Scouts. He and dozens of others contacted the newspaper to describe how events detailed in the documents years ago had shaped their lives.
Used for nearly a century by the Boy Scouts of America to prevent suspected molesters from reentering the organization, the files represent a long-hidden record of alleged abuse affecting thousands of men across the country. The allegations range from rape to fondling to showing pornography to children. Many named in the files were never charged with crimes.
More than 1,200 of the files were released last week by order of the Oregon Supreme Court in response to a petition by various media organizations. The Times obtained additional information for its database, which covers cases opened from 1947 to 2005, from a Seattle attorney who has sued the Scouts on behalf of alleged abuse victims.
Many victims and family members who contacted The Times were hoping for answers to long-standing questions: Were they, or their sons or brothers, alone in being abused? Was the accused ever brought to justice?
"It's a long, dark chapter in my family's history that has caused a lot of pain," wrote the sister of one Scout who alleged abuse. "This will help bring some closure to something we have just been mystified by for so long."
For others, the files' release was an opportunity to tell friends and family about a long-buried secret.
"My first reaction was tears," one man wrote in an email. "Then I realized that I had to say something, as many of my friends and family live in a bubble. They think this kinda stuff doesn't happen to people that they know. So I popped the bubble."
On his Facebook page, the man said he was abused by his Florida scoutmaster in the 1980s, writing, "I was one of those boys who didn't want to say no to anyone, nor did I want to be left out."
A friend offered immediate support: "I'm pretty proud to know you right about now."
Several people said they had discovered family members among the alleged perpetrators — sometimes a surprise, but in other cases a sad confirmation of long-standing suspicions.
A 27-year-old Georgia man with an unusual first name called to complain that he was listed in the database erroneously. A quick look at the file revealed that it pertained to a man with the same name who was decades older.
"Oh," the caller said. "That's my grandpa, actually…. I'd always kind of heard stories about him."
Another man named in the files contacted The Times to say he had not molested anyone; at age 22, he said, he'd engaged in a consensual homosexual relationship with a 17-year-old in the troop he led.
Many people expressed disappointment and anger at the Boy Scouts.